August 16: Boston Bar to Spences Bridge, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 16: Boston Bar to Spences Bridge, British Columbia

WE LEFT around 7am to escape the traffic. And for a couple of hours we did. But then it returned, not as oppressive as yesterday but miserable nevertheless. And it is still hot - about 38 - with high humidity. The law compels us to wear helmets but I abandon mine in mid-afternoon. I have no idea if I will fall off and bang my head without it but I do know I shall grow faint and sick with it.

I remember only two things of today. The first, the more pleasant, was crossing with John Speerin, a cheery, dark-haired man on a Surly who calls himself a cyclist-adventurer - or, on visiting cards, Cycle Monkey.

John Speerin: cycle-monkey par excellence.
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John lives in Comox, British Columbia. He was riding home, having once ridden from there to San Diego, at the bottom left corner of the United States.

"I was going to go on from there through South America," he said, "but then my daughter got sick and I settled on touring in my own back yard."

We still see one or two tourists a day but it's hard to cross the road to talk because of this infernal traffic. John made the effort because, as he said: "You're the first riders I've come across since I set off." You can find his story at www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/cyclemonkeyexpedition. His daughter, by the way, is over her illness.

The second event is a change in the landscape. Since Hope we have been in a canyon of thickly wooded hills with rounded tops. The Fraser river and the railway line that tortures itself to follow it have rarely been anywhere but on our right, although the river has often been hidden.

There were a couple of hills to climb yesterday, one at the start and the other towards the end, but otherwise the road was undemanding. Today, we have had a succession of hills. The river has switched to the left, the canyon has turned into a broad, glacial valley and we now have two railways rather than one. Both lines go the same way - there's no other way they could go - so I assume they were once competitors. They could never have challenged each other on speed. The slopes are intense and the curves so agonising that steel wheels cry in pain on steel rails as trains a mile long take bends too tight for their comfort.

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As the valley has widened, so have the hills become dull yellow, like old sand. Other rocks are darker. Everything is dry. No humans live on the hills. No farm animals either. Bird song is rare, the birds equally so. Conifers grow individually or in clusters of five or six. The soil is too poor to be forested.

This arid country reminds us of the days we passed by Omak, where we

The countryside has grown dry and dusty, like the desert around Omak.
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saw the young Indians ride their ponies down impossible slopes and into the water. The Indians were given that land because it was impossible to farm, because barely a cupful of water fell a year. If I check a larger map, I think I'm going to find that where we are now is in the same geographical and same geological belt.

Not that there's no water at all. We are camped on a rise above a broad stretch of it flowing fast enough to stumble and splash into a thousand permanently leaping white sheep. At the moment, says the campsite owner, 11 million salmon are working their way upstream here to one of the largest spawning grounds in the world.

The site owners are British. He has a London accent and she comes from the English south coast, from Worthing. I wanted to ask if she had been found in a brown bag at a left-luggage office at a London station. I hinted at it but it meant nothing to her.

Remember?

"I was found in a handbag."

"A HAND BAG?"

And then...

"To lose one parent is a misfortune. To lose two smacks of carelessness."

Or...

"Do you smoke?"

"I'm afraid I do."

"Good. A man should always have a hobby.

Oh, Oscar, does nobody remember you now?

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